Nearly one year after Crystal Lake hosted the rowing competition at Gay Games VII ( after initial protests ) , members of PFLAG decided to continue the education by marching in the town's annual July 4th parade. The marchers were met mostly with applause and support Sunday. The front banner clearly spelled out PFLAG's name and mission. Buttons marches along. The front sign on PFLAG's car. The children of Barbara Ann Marian, who came up with the idea to march, bring up the rear, while she drove. Her son Ed Powers and daughter Elizabeth Francis ( right ) with friend Jaspr. The contingent before the Crystal Lake Independence Parade. RDick and Ed, together 45 years. Tammy and Diana and their dog Buttons. Barbara Ann Marian and her family and friends. Toni?Weaver and her family and friends. Photos by Tracy Baim
More photos at www.windycitymediagroup.com/photos/PFLAG-Crystal-Lake-July-4th .
In early 2006, when organizers of the Gay Games in Chicago decided to move the rowing competition to the best regional venue, in Crystal Lake, anti-gay forces tried to cancel those plans.
After weeks of meetings and protests, the city councils of Crystal Lake and its neighbor, Lakewood, voted to support the idea ( in part because state law might have been on the side of the Gay Games ) . Welcoming forces in the town and the region eventually also became louder than the opponents.
One of the women who wrote a letter to the editor during that time was Barbara Ann Marian, who has a lesbian daughter and a gay and lesbian niece and nephew. PFLAG organizer Toni Weaver contacted Barbara and her husband Jerry Powers after seeing the letter, and Marian became involved in PFLAG. Marian came up with the idea to apply to march in this year's Crystal Lake July 4th Parade, having been inspired by the visibility in the region caused by the Gay Games controversy. She worked to get the contingent innot an easy move given that a peace group was refused entry ( they camped out along the sidelines ) .
'I wanted to send a strong signal to those that are not out that there is a safe place,' Marian said before the parade. Marian, who lives 22 miles away in Harvard, said she saw this as a civil rights, moral and family issue. As a Catholic, she wanted to send a message to parents to accept their children.
As the parade progressed more than a mile through the town, the sidelines were packed with families. The relatively homogenous, mostly white crowd included many people who waved and shouted strong support. Children read the PFLAG sign out loud as it passed, and those adults and youth who were not supportive mostly kept it to themselves. Marian's daughter Elizabeth Francis marched holding the hand of her friend Jaspr, and the two of them did receive some negative comments.
But their experience was mostly positive. 'Some people did say some stuff. But the love and support, the smiling and waving, was a 1,000-to-one ratio,' Francis said. 'It was liberating, affirming, and encouraging,' Jaspr said.
'My mom was awesome, and I have been overwhelmed by her love and acceptance,' said Francis, who lives in Oregon and came back to support her mom in the parade.
As PFLAG walked along, near the end of the 80-contingent parade, they handed out rainbow ribbons, which children clamored forwith little resistance from their parents. There were some GLBT families along the sidelines as well. One marcher carried a sign saying 'Come Walk With Us,' and that resulted in about 15 people joining the 28-strong PFLAG contingent as it gathered strength on the beautiful July 1 afternoon. Also along the route were other suburban members of PFLAG, including PFLAG Palatine, who could not march the route but who wanted to show their support.
After the parade, Marian said that she felt the crowds were very receptive and welcoming. 'People were smiling and telling me thank you. ... This is the unintended consequence of the Gay Games fracus,' she said.
More photos on the Web site at www.windycitymediagroup.com .
Tracy Baim in publisher of Windy City Times and co vice-chair of the Gay Games VII board.